05/11/16

Narcissist of Appearance vs. Narcissist of Substance

By: Sam Vaknin | Gulag Bound

Why do some narcissists end up being over-achievers, pillars of the community, and accomplished professionals – while their brethren fade into obscurity, having done little of note with their lives?

There seem to be two types of narcissists: those who derive ample narcissistic supply from mere appearances (“Potemkin narcissists”) and those whose narcissistic supply consists of doing substantial deeds, of acting as change-agents, of making a difference, and of creating and producing things of value. The former type aim for celebrity (defined as “being famous for being famous”) and the fostering and promulgation of an “empty brand” (name recognition without commensurate real-life accomplishments). In contradistinction, narcissists of substance strive for meaningful careers, albeit in the limelight.

We find Potemkin narcissists with empty brands in politics (the “Being There Syndrome” manifested in the likes of Obama, Palin, and Putin); in the media (where, for example, compulsively self-promoting physicists like Kaku or even Hawking are worshiped as transformative geniuses even though they are credited with a mere single, esoteric, and marginal contribution to physics, decades ago) in business (e.g. Donald Trump, or the infamous “empty suits”) and in entertainment (Paris Hilton, the Kardashians).

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